LNH: Beige Midnight #6: The Bart Age: "The Ice Caverns of Existence" (2/3)

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Tue May 25 18:46:28 PDT 2010

Beginning of Part II

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

April, 2008 AD --
A Net.ropolis Supermarket --

Fearless Leader browsed the assortments of cereals.  They seemed to be 
out of his favorite brand -- 'Beaties' -- the Breakfast of People who 
beat People up.  Fearless Leader sighed.  Maybe he could try something 
new.  What was this? he thought looking at a box that had 
Easily-Discovered Man Lite's grinning face.  Easily-Discovered Bran 
Flakes?  Hadn't they banned this?  Still the Supermarket had a bunch of 
boxes that were on sale.  'Now with more Tasty Arachnicide in Every 
Bite!'  Going against all common sense, Fearless Leader put a box into 
his hand held cart.

Ripping Dancer.  Tara.  Fearless Leader closed his eyes.  Why did she go 
off into space?  Fearless Leader sighed.  Nothing he could do about it 
now.  Just wait.  And hope.

Fearless Leader opened his eyes again.  There was some kind of commotion 
happening.  A crowd of people were gathering.  Two old ladies were 
fighting over something.  It was a box of something.  He should do 
something.  He should stop this.

But what good would it do?  So what if he stopped this?  It wouldn't do 
anything.  It wouldn't change the world.  No matter how many 
supervillains you stop, they just keep coming back.  Keep escaping.  It 
never ends.

No.  He wouldn't stop this.  Let them kill each other.  It's all 
hopeless.  They're all doomed.  He didn't have time for this anymore. 
He had things to do.  This was his time now.

His time.

Fearless Leader walked away as the two ladies continued to brawl.  As he 
walked away a box of cereal fell onto the floor.  On the box were 
cartoony depictions of Dekay and Diskolor.  'Bryttle-Os!'  There was a 
dialogue balloon coming out of Dekay's mouth.  'Bryttle is the Future' 
is what it said.

Bryttle is the Future.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

1994 AD --
Retcon Hour --
Alt.stralia --

The 1994 version of Bart was lying on a beach mat trying desperately to 
forget everything.  Everything in his miserable life.  His one eyed 
kangroo was nibbling on part of the mat.  That was about the time an 
open briefcase full of papers fell on him.

"Oh!  Sorry, sorry, sorry.  Please!  I'll get those!"

Bart looked up and saw the hottest woman he had ever seen.  She had one 
of those Crocodile Dundee hats and was wearing one those kangaroo 
bikinis.  Both of which had various tears and rips on them.  She also 
had her own kangaroo that looked a lot healthier than the one he had. 
God, she was beautiful.

"It's all right," Bart said helping her pick up some of the papers. 
"You're an American too, aren't you?"

The woman nodded.  "My name's Tara.  Look, we're being watched.  No, 
don't look.  You won't be able to see them.  Just keep your eyes on me. 
  Look, you're LNH, aren't you?"

"I -- yeah, I guess..."

"Good.  I'm LNH too.  Although now I'm a triple agent working for 
W.I.R.E.D. (We Intend Rule and Eternal Domination).  Look, I've got 
papers that I need to give to the LNH.  The Entire Future of the World 
is at stake.  We can't talk here.  We need to meet at this restaurant." 
  Ripping Dancer gave Bart a card.  "Will you help me?"

"Uh, sure.  Yeah, why not," Bart said looking at the card.

"Good.  See you in an hour."  With that said she walked away.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

Bart clicked his TV on as he lay stretched out on his bed.  He looked at 
his watch.  Tara was supposed to be here in 10 minutes or so with those 
secret papers.  Was this insane?  Was she playing him?  Ah, well. 
Didn't matter.  It was something different.

They had had lunch at a seafood place, and she had told him that she was 
coming here.  With the papers.  That she needed to come here.  Or the 
world was doomed.  This was too much.  He should have taken a shower. 
But not enough time now.  He looked at his watch again.

He heard knocking on his door.  Was that her?  He hopped off of his bed 
to see.  It was the room service guy, wearing a Crocodile Dundee hat 
with his own room service kangaroo by his side.  "Champagne?  I didn't 
order this."

"Compliments of an Anonymous Acquaintance, mate.  Already paid for."

"Umm -- do you want a tip?"  The room service guy shook his head.

A little bit later...

Some more knocking.  "Tara?"

Ripping Dancer smiled as she walked into Bart's hotel room.

"We've got champagne," said Bart gesturing towards the bottle in a 
bucket of ice.  "Did you send that?"

Ripping Dancer nodded her head.  "It's all part of the job.  The spy 
job.  Could I -- I need to freshen up a bit.  Do you mind?"

Bart shook his head.  Ripping Dancer made her way towards the bathroom.

Locking the door behind her, she pressed her hands on the sink counter 
top and looked at the mirror.  What was she doing?  She pulled out a 
little baggie of pills from her purse and opened it up.  She looked at 
one of the capsules.  She was supposed to break it open and mix it into 
his drink.  That's what she was supposed to do.  This didn't seem right. 
  Drugging him.  He was an evil unstoppable force in the future, but 
here -- now, he seemed like an average guy.  This was wrong.  What they 
were doing here.  After all Hex Luthor had done and now the LNH was 
working with him?  She couldn't do this anymore.  But Christ!  She had 
too, didn't she?  If she didn't the whole Looniverse was going to die. 
God.  This was hell.

She needed to go back in room before he started to become suspicious. 
She closed her purse and clutched the pill tightly in her hand and went 
back into the bedroom.

Bart was opening the champagne bottle.  And right as the cork popped 
some high pitch sound began to emit.  And a few seconds later both Bart 
and Ripping Dancer fell to the ground.  The champagne bubbled onto the 
carpet floor.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

"What the hell happened here?" said Occultism Kid entering the room.  He 
went over to see if Ripping Dancer was all right.

"Sleeper Sonic Cork.  Once pulled emits a sound that causes a person to 
be knocked out for 10 minutes or so.  She's perfectly fine, Occultism 
Kid.  Come on.  Let's get this over with."  Hex Luthor walked over to 
where Bart had passed out.

"This wasn't part of the plan!"

"I improvised it.  I know you 'heroes' are squeamish types.  Would 
Ripping Dancer have drugged Bart?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I don't like 
putting all my eggs into one basket.  So I improvised.  Now would 
someone help me get Bart onto the bed?"

Irony Man gave Hex Luthor a hand with Bart.

Hex Luthor grabbed the TV remote and started flipping through the 
channels.  Finally, he stopped on some episode of LNH: The Animated 
Series.  It was some episode that Occultism Kid hadn't seen.  A cartoony 
Bruce Timm version of the Ultimate Ninja was asking someone who kind of 
looked like Bart for a Mr. Paprika.  Lord!  Was that actually Bart?

<<What is it?!  Tsar Chasm, Acton Lord, and Pearl Jam?!  And they've 
teamed up?!  No!!!  I always feared this day would come!!  And you're 
telling me they've got some type of ray gun that will turn every single 
person in the world into a Grunge Rocker!???  Everyone?!!!   *Sigh*! 
Fred... make that a Double Mr. Paprika!!>>

That wasn't Fred.  It looked exactly like Bart.  "Does that need to be on?"

Hex Luthor looked at Occultism Kid.  "Yes.  The mindless blather helps 
me concentrate.  Problem?"

"Yes, I've got a problem.  I've got a problem with this whole damn 
thing!  How do we know that this isn't what caused Bart to become Evil?! 
  How do we know!!?"

Hex Luthor shrugged his shoulders.  "We don't.  But you know what?  It 
doesn't really matter.  Say we don't do this.  Maybe Bart doesn't do all 
those horrible acts.  Maybe he doesn't make a deal with the Bryttles. 
But you know someone else will.  There's always going to be someone 
else.  So even if you save Bart, another will take his place."

"You don't know that."

Hex Luthor laughed.  "You're naive.  You think all the people in the 
world are like you.  That they'll do the right thing.  But they're not. 
  They're like me.  They want power -- money.  To be on top of the 
mountain and look down on everyone else.  That's what they want.  But 
you wouldn't know about that since you're already on the top.  Looking 
down at all of us.  No.  Bart is damned.  He's always been damned.  And 
you can't save him.  That ship's sailed.  We already know what his 
future is.  It's all written in stone."

"How did you get this way, Hex?"

"By living in reality.  It's a harsh place.  You should visit it sometime."

"I'm already there."

"Sure.  So still want to do this?  Or do you want to save him?  Hey, 
maybe you could also save me while you're at it!  Maybe I could be some 
great hero?  What do you say to that??!"

Occultism Kid looked at Hex Luthor for a bit.  "You know, maybe you're 
right.  Maybe there are people who just can't be saved."  He looked at 
the unconscious form of Bart.  What could he do?  Create some time 
paradox?  The evil Bart already existed.  His teammates were fighting 
him in the past.  There was nothing he could do.  Bart was damned. 
"Let's get this over with."

Hex Luthor smirked. "Right."

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

Ancient Qwerty --
1,001,992 BC --

The three Elders cowered as Kid Recap questioned them.  "So you're 
saying that Bart is in this -- what is it?  Ice Cave?"

"The Ice Caverns of Existence!"

"Umm, yeah.  Okay.  And he's frozen?"

"Yes, all who are not worthy shall be consumed by the Ice Caverns of 

"And so how do we get him out of there?"

"It is impossible!  Unless you are the most worthy one!  Only he shall 
leave the cave unscathed!"

"Right.  And who is this most worthy one?"

"No one knows!  According to legend he will not arrive until the 
Alignment of Flosk, Mirgor, and Dalaton during the time of the UIOP Comet!!"

Kid Recap typed in all that gibberish in the Qwertian Mumbo Jumbo 
thingee that Dev-Null had created for the LNH.  "1994 BC.  Hell."  They 
were going to have to use the time ships again.  Was this some type of 
scam by Bart?

"Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad!  You!  The guy with the top hat!  No, not 
you.  The other guy with the top hat.  Yeah, you!  I need you to do 

Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad walked over to where Kid Recap was.  "Umm, 

"I need you to pull out a paper."  Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad did that. 
  Kid Recap shredded the paper into a number of parts and wrote 1994 BC 
and 1,001,992 BC on two of the shredded pieces of paper.  And then he 
put all of the pieces back into Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad's hat. 
"Okay, I need you to close your eyes, ask where we should go next, and 
then pull out a piece."  Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad nodded his head and 
closed his eyes.

Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad grabbed a piece of paper and opened his 
eyes.  "It says 1994 BC."

Kid Recap sighed to himself as he read the same paper and then turned 
his head towards Contraption Man (who was actually a robot duplicate of 
Contraption Man, but don't tell Kid Recap -- I mean really, there's only 
so much a hero can take!)  "If we were to time travel to 1994 BC would 
we still have enough Time Gas to get back to the Present?"

Contraption Man typed some numbers into his calcuator.thingee.  "It's 
possible.  Assuming we siphon Time Gas from two of the ships, then yes 
-- we could send three of our ships back to the present -- if we were to 
do that.  We'd probably have to strand 70 or so members in that time 
period in order to do that."

"70?  Damn.  You sure about that?"

"According to my calculation, give or take 5 members.  Keep in mind once 
we get back we could send another Time ship to pick them up."

"I suppose so.  Hell.  Guess we have no choice.  Okay, let's get the 
ships ready.  We're going to 1994 BC."

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

1994 AD --
Retcon Hour --
Alt.stralia --

Bart woke up.  God, what a strange dream.  A beautiful woman.  Something 
crawling in his brain.  Frozen in a Cave.  What else?  Damn.  It was all 
getting fuzzy.  He couldn't remember the girl's face.  It was -- damn. 
What was he thinking of?  It was gone.  What was the dream about? 
Uhhgg!  Oh well.  Nothing important.  Just a stupid dream.  His mouth 
felt dry.  He stumbled out of bed.

As he walked across the carpet, he felt something wet.  What the hell? 
Why was the carpet wet?

What the hell happened yesterday?  Maybe he got really drunk.  Who knows.

Bart shook his head.

Back to the miserable world of reality.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

Outside of the hotel --

"So, it's done?  The chip's in?" said Contraption Man holding a number 
of kangaroos on a leash.

Hex Luthor nodded.  "Amnesia took care of his memories.  He'll never 
remember any of this."

Occultism Kid stepped out of the hotel.

"Where's Ripping Dancer?"

Occultism Kid gestured towards the hotel.  "She needed to use the ladies 

"Is she all right?" asked Dr. Stomper.

"I suppose."  Occultism Kid shrugged his hands.

Contraption Man looked at his watch.  "Well, we still have plenty of 
time at least.  Anyone want to..."  Before Contraption Man could finish 
with that thought a high-pitched screech blasted through the air.

All of the heroes quickly covered their ears.  "What the..." said 
Occultism Kid who noticed that Hex Luthor had a gun to Dr. Stomper's 
head.  Occultism Kid tried to chant a spell, but nothing happened. 
"Huuhhbbbllaauufffkkkaaa!" said Occultism Kid in futility.

"That sound was a sonic-mystifier.  It shuts down the part of the brain 
that allows people to perform magic.  I always wanted to try it.  So 
does work Occultism Kid?  I guess from the complete impotence you're 
displaying -- that would be yes.  Now here's the deal.  I want your time 
pack Contraption Man, Occultism Kid -- give yours to Amnesia.  Also 
we'll need all of the master codes.  And if you don't -- well, I guess 
this sidewalk will have the second smartest brain in the Looniverse 
splattered all over."

Contraption Man began to unbuckle his time pack.  "You don't need to do 
this.  Your time pack is just like the rest."

"Yeah, sure.  Then you won't mind trading.  Just drop it there.  Both of 
you.  Amnesia get them.  Occultism Kid, Contraption Man -- lie flat -- 
stomach on the ground.  Don't look up."

"And what about me, Hex?" said Irony Man.

"I'm not sure.  You could come with us if you want, Toony.  You're no 
longer one of them.  They'll never accept you.  They'll never trust you. 
  You don't have a place with them anymore."

"Maybe.  Maybe you're right.  Maybe I'm not a hero.  Maybe I've lost 
that forever.  Maybe.  But I'm still LNH.  I'll always be LNH.  I was 
there for the first fight.  And I'll be there with them when the 
Bryttles wake up.  And if it's my last battle -- well, then it's my last 
battle.  I'm LNH."

"Well, have a nice funeral, Toony.  The Master Code, Contraption Man."

"The Master Code is M-A-S-T-U-R-C-O-A-D."

"You serious?  Type that in Amnesia."

"Uh, what?" said Amnesia with a confused look on his face.

"The Master Code!  M-A-S-T-U-R-C-O-A-D!"

Amnesia typed that in.  "Looks like it works."

"I can't believe I didn't beat you people," said Hex Luthor as he typed 
it into his own time pack.  "Well, looks like this is goodbye.  Wipe all 
their minds, Amnesia."  A green cloud came from Amnesia's ears and 
passed over each hero.

"What the -- what happened?  Who -- who are you people?" said 
Contraption Man.

"No one that you need concern yourself with," said Hex as he blasted at 
the two time packs on the ground -- destroying them.  And then both Hex 
Luthor and Amnesia disappeared in a flash.

"Contraption Man, did you lose your memory?" asked Irony Man.

"No.  Was faking it.  I guess Occultism Kid's mystical memory paint 
helped protect us."  Contraption Man went over to the smoldering pile of 
burning time packs examining them.  "Looks like we're going to have go 
to the LNHHQ and steal some more time packs."

"I can't believe we just let him escape like that," said Occultism Kid.

"Oh, don't worry about it, OK.  There's only one place Hex could go 
using the time packs.  It didn't matter, which ones he used," said 
Contraption Man with a grin on his face.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

73,001,992 BC --
Cretaceous Period --
Alt.stralia --

Hex Luthor and Amnesia both stumbled a bit as they flashed into what 
looked like wide grassy, jungly, open plain.  Hex Luthor could feel 
something burning on his back.  It was the damn time pack.  He and 
Amnesia quickly took their packs off and attempted to smother the 
flames.  The packs were shot to hell.

Hex Luthor scanned the environment and saw something that looked like a 
Pterodactyl flying in the sky.  And then he spotted a pack of 
Velociraptors that were moving his way.  Each Velociraptor was wearing a 
Crocodile Dundee hat.

Hex Luthor looked back at the smoldering time packs.  And then back at 
the Velociraptors that were coming closer and closer.  Okay.  This isn't 

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

1994 AD --
Retcon Hour --
Alt.stralia --

"I figure when Beige Midnight is all over we can go back in time and see 
if they want a lift."  Contraption Man looked at his watch.  "Only an 
hour and a half left before the retcon rings lose power.  We need to 
find a way to get to Net.ropolis fast."

"I've got a warehouse in Alt.stralia -- 50 miles from here that has 
teleporters," said Irony Man.  "Might have to make some modifications 
for human transportation though."

"That should be easy enough," nodded Dr. Stomper.

"Ripping Dancer," said Occultism Kid snapping his fingers.  "She should 
have come out by now.  What's taking her so long?"

"Some type of trouble?" asked Contraption Man.

"I'll go check."  Occultism Kid headed back into the hotel.

A little bit later...

Occultism Kid shook his head as he walked back outside.  "The hotel 
people checked all of the bathrooms.  She's not there."

"Hell," said Contraption Man looking at his watch again.  "We've got to 
find her.  Once these retcon rings run out -- it could be very bad." 
Contraption Man looked at his scanner.thingee.  "Damn!  This thing is 
worthless!  Recotheric energy is screwing it up.  I can't find anything 
with this."  And then Contraption Man looked at the retcon protection 
ring on his finger.  "Hmm.  Unless..."

"What are you thinking?" asked Occultism Kid.

"I could attach one of these rings into the scanner and it would protect 
the scanner from all of the retcotheric energy.  The problem is -- one 
of us would have to take a ring off for me to do that.  Maybe there's 
some other way."  Contraption Man opened up the scanner and began to 
examine it."

"You couldn't perhaps shape the scanner over somebody's hand, maybe?" 
posed Dr. Stomper.

"Nope, I need to use the inside of the ring."

"I'll do it.  You can use my ring," said Irony Man taking his armored 
hand off so he could reach his ring.

"No, Irony Man!  Don't!" said Occultism Kid.  "It has to be me.  Of all 
of us, I'm the only one it can be assured of that will make it back to 
the present.  The scene where I talk to my Beige Countdown past self 
hasn't happened yet [See Beige Countdown #0].  The rest you -- who knows 
what happens.  Plus whatever Hex did to me to stop my powers -- I can 
still feel the effects.  Maybe the recotheric energy will have some 
positive effect on me -- restart my magical abilities.  Who knows.  It 
has to be me."

"Fine."  Irony Man reattached his armored glove over his hand slightly 
disappointed by one less chance to redeem himself for all of his sins.

"You sure you want to do this?" Contraption Man looked straight into 
Occultism Kid's eyes.

"Yeah.  It will be okay."  Occultism Kid slid the ring off of his finger 
and handed it to Contraption Man.  "See?  I'm fine."

"You have a cigarette dangling from your mouth, Occultism Kid," pointed 
out Dr. Stomper.

Occultism Kid took the cigarette out of his mouth and watched the smoke 
from it dissipate into the air around it.  "Yeah.  Guess so.  Ain't that 
something?"  Occultism Kid looked at his other hand that now had a 
bottle of vodka in it.  His clean shaven face had a fuzzy shadow over it 
now.  His eyes were blood shot webs.  And his trenchcoat was a lot more 
grubby with old blood stains splattered over it.  Stains that could 
never get clean no matter how hard you tried.  Occultism Kid laughed and 
took a swig from the vodka bottle.  "Now if you bloody spandexers don't 
mind -- I really need to get piss drunk."  Occultism Kid made a 'V' sign 
with his fingers.

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****


Ripping Dancer hesitated a bit when she heard the shout.  She looked to 
see who it was.  Contraption Man.  Too late.  Too damn late.  She 
dropped the letter into the mailbox.  And walked away from it.

"What did you do?  What did you drop in there?"  Contraption Man grabbed 
Ripping Dancer by the arm.

"Nothing.  It was nothing."  Ripping Dancer averted her eyes.

"Are you trying to make some damn time paradox?!  Because that's not why 
we're here!"

"You want to know what it was?  Okay then.  It was a warning!  A 
warning!  To my younger self.  I'm trying to save my life!  I thought 
maybe I could warn her.  Maybe it would be different.  Maybe I wouldn't 
make that deal."

"Did it work?"

Ripping Dancer shook her head.  "It was funny -- right as I dropped the 
letter, I got this memory flash.  Something I hadn't thought about for 
years.  I remember the letter.  God.  It was this crazy woman from 
Alt.stralia.  It's all coming back to me.  I ignored it.  Just some 
crazy woman's warning.  I didn't change anything."

"That's just as well."

Ripping Dancer shook her head.  "No.  It isn't.  I've got to change it. 
  I've got to -- Net.ropolis.  Yeah, if I could go to..."

"I'm not going to let you do that.  And even if you did, you'd be too 
late.  The ring and Occultism Kid's memory paint would wear off before 
you made it there."

"The ring.  If I took it off, I would change -- wouldn't I?"

"Yes.  And it would probably turn you into something even worse."

"How could it be worse?"

"Believe me -- there is always worse.  That you can always count on.

"I'm dying.  I don't want to die."  Ripping Dancer sat down on the sidewalk.

"I know.  And I wish there was something I could do."  Contraption Man 
put his hand on Ripping Dancer's shoulder.  He looked up at the sky. 
The sky changed colors as the recotheric energy washed over it.  "You 
know this place.  This place here?" he said sweeping his hand across the 
view.  "I'm responsible for all of it.  All of this."  Various buildings 
changed to different architect styles.  "This is my great sin."

Contraption Man picked up a can.  The can changed from a Bolo Cola to a 
Mr. Paprika and then disappeared all together.  "I didn't want to come 
back here.  This was the place I betrayed the LNH.  I don't know why 
Stomper made me come back here.  He's a smart guy, don't get me wrong -- 
but sometimes he's so completely clueless.  It was hard to come back 
here.  I never wanted to come back here."

"What did you do?"

"It was 1994.  I was secretly working with wReamicus Maximus.  I did all 
kinds of bad stuff.  Sabotage.  Framing a fellow teammate.  You name it. 
  And it was all so wReamicus Maximus could warp the entire Looniverse 
into some chaotic continuity free mess.  And I believed in him.  I 
believed that everything I was doing was right.  And then he lost.  And 
I was all alone.  No friends.  Nothing.  I wanted to be dead."

"So, why did the LNH take you back?"

"I don't know.  I guess the LNH has a soft spot for traitors.  They 
deprogrammed me and -- there was this car."


"Yeah, car.  The Mini-car of Redemption.  I touched it and all my sins 
were washed away.  [See LNH Triple Play #5]."

"The LNH has a Mini-car of Redemption?  Are you serious?"

Contraption Man laughed.  "No.  They don't.  I guess one really existed 
once upon a time, but no -- the one that I touched, it was just an 
illusion.  Just some Peril Room hologram.  I learned that a month or so 
after it happened.  My sins were still there.  Nothing had erased them."

Contraption Man watched a crack in the sidewalk disappear.  "You know -- 
here is something I've never told anyone.  I still hear the voice of 
wReamicus Maximus in my head.  It's always there.  Sometimes it's very 
small.  When I came back here, it was loud.  So loud.  It felt like -- I 
guess it was like some former alcoholic who's been sober for 15 years 
walking into a bar for the first time.  That's what it felt like coming 
here.  Coming to this place.  This damn time.  But it's no longer loud. 
  I resisted it.  I resisted the voice.  Now its small.  I wish it would 
disappear.  But...  It's always going to be there.  I know that now. 
It's a part of me.  This time -- This Retcon Hour.  It's always going to 
be a part of me.  And perhaps I need it.  It gives me strength.  I wish 
I could erase all of this.  But  -- I can't.  And I have to live with 
that.  I have to.  The voice will always be there."

"You're going to have to live with your sin, Ripping Dancer.  No matter 
how many lives you save or whatever -- it's going be there.  There's no 
Mini-car of Redemption for us, Ripping Dancer.  No.  We don't have it 
simple.  You need to just accept it, find strength in it, and move on. 
It's going to be with you for the rest of your life.  You have to 
realize that.  The rest of your life."

"Ha.  Rest of my life.  That won't be long."

"No, actually it could be very long.  I've been to many alternate 
futures, Dancer.  It's true -- I won't lie -- there are some futures 
where you die during Beige Midnight.  But there are also quite a few 
where you live -- where you beat cancer -- where you live a long, long 
damn time.  I've seen you as an old lady, Ripping Dancer."

Ripping Dancer looked up at Contraption Man.  "You have?"

"Yes.  There's nothing written in stone.  Nothing."  Contraption Man 
looked at his watch.  "Look, we've got to get back with the others 
before they start to get worried.  Don't have much time left.  Ready to 
go back to the present?  Not going to try anything stupid, are you?"

"No.  I'll be okay.  Let's go back."

                      **** <<--BM-->> ****

End of Part II

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